Three quarters of MPs back business rate freeze
A poll by the British Retail Consortium has found that a freeze on business rates next year is backed by three quarters of MPs.
The BRC said more than one in five MPS agreed "strongly" that business rates should be kept at the present level with support equally high among Conservative and Labour MPs. The organisation is now calling on the Chancellor to respond to MPs' support by announcing in Wednesday's Autumn Statement that there will be no business rates rise in April 2013.
In addition, the poll found that three quarters of MPs thought that trading costs should be brought under control as a way of halting high street decline. Two thirds also believed that high streets in their constituencies had deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.
The findings are part of the BRC's research into the current state of UK town centres. The 21st Century High Streets: What next for Britain's town centres? report tracks progress since the BRC's original rescue plan, published in 2009. It identifies action still needed regarding issues such as accessibility, safety and security for retailers, and improving the management of town centres as recommended in the Portas Review.
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "Many of the issues we've campaigned about are now receiving much more attention. It's re-assuring the importance of high streets is now widely recognised. The Government can take credit for a high-profile review of high streets and for planning reforms that encourage investment. But continued weak consumer spending and rising business costs mean we're seeing more and more empty shops. Some town centres are struggling to attract the shopper numbers needed to remain viable.
"A business rates freeze is essential to offer immediate relief, but there is much more still to be done if high streets are to go on providing jobs and services.
"If action isn't taken the cost of that failure will be borne by communities across the country in the form of more boarded up premises and an acceleration of the downward spiral that's gripping too many town centres."
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